Issue #178
Any Port In A Storm November 11, 2011

Erica Baum
Untitled (Suburban Homes)
1997
Gelatin silver print (Card Catalogue)
20 x 24 inches
Edition 6/6 + 2 AP
Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York

From the Editor

Here in the northeast the days are getting noticeably shorter. If an October snowstorm wasn’t enough of a reminder, the arcane tradition of daylight savings time went to work, exacerbating the steadily diminishing daylight and the murmurs of an impending winter. This is the time of year best suited to thinking. For me it has meant a moment of self-reflection regarding the multiple roles we occupy within our lives, a state far from unique to anyone making their way in the arts. Some days I’m an artist, others an editor, and part of the time an assistant for another artist. For a while I was a professor, and through most all of it I have managed to put down words in some form or another. Since taking on this editorial position, I’ve become acutely aware of these roles, partly because each comes with their own set of diktats, to say nothing of stereotypes, which guide my behavior and your assumptions.

Old hat, no? Perhaps, but as this occupation of multiple roles by arts workers only increases it seems as though the critical language we’re using to talk about these positions should be changing along with it. The old terminology no longer seems adequate for describing what an artist, critic or art historian is. Like all labels they rely on assumption more than fact and the facts are becoming increasingly illusive. There is certainly no shortage of advice columns hinging on these assumptions, behooving artists to act a certain way, lest they forgo success. PhD’s for studio artists only work to further muddy the waters, conjuring up the specter of a mightily serious and well-credentialed artist. But truth be told, the sediment has never really been settled. Occupational markers aside, its not that difficult to see artist statements and manifestoes as a form of art criticism, nor the work of some critics as breaching literary boundaries.[1]

Our institutions seem equally behind, relying on an old lexicon surrounding objects and how they’re exhibited. Divisions between media and curatorial departments over-emphasize the distinctions between working methods, time-periods and artistic practice–championing difference and exclusivity over arts importance for not only other art, but the world at large. These old models have deep roots running throughout institutional structures. I try and remain hopeful regarding the confirmed merger between Arthouse and AMOA back in Austin, but I worry that this old model, utilized in some form more or less by both institutions, will simply be dressed up and applied to the new conglomerate. A strategy that doesn’t fully take into account the structural failures of the past, and the deep changes in the discourse surrounding art objects and their presentation, misses entirely the golden opportunity a union of this sort presents.

New terms, new models, new forms, fresh blood. No small order. Taking a page from my status as a crossbreed, perhaps its simply time to acknowledge the crumbling distinctions, or at least recognize that they were tenuous from the start and have, perhaps, finally run their course. Concessions of this sort don’t mean the wholesale dismantling of what’s come before, nor does it make reconciling the multiple roles we and our institutions occupy any easier. As an editor, my background as an artist often makes me uneasy. Succeeding a long line of formidable art historians and curators, I doubt my linguistic and theoretical chops each time I approach one of these letters. Everyone’s got a yardstick at the ready. As an artist, taking a position through words alone and without months to examine its nuances makes me exceedingly uneasy. Somewhere along the way I recognize that each role—each form I have to work within—can aide the other and creates a situation that is mutually beneficial. In some sense it’s a preventative measure for one-dimensionality and a perpetual challenge, one that we should embrace across the spectrum.

...might be good will be back on December 2 after a brief break for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Between bites of your favorite Turkey oriented dishes be sure to follow @mbgETC, piloted through November by Brooklyn-based artist David Horvitz.

Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.

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[1] Futurist’s such as Boccioni and the Russian Constructivists initially come to mind, while Art & Language and Liam Gillick offer further examples in a more contemporary context. Critics like Dave Hickey, John Ruskin, and Charles Baudelaire occupy the other side of the coin. I could also list artist-run spaces, curators who write, artists who curate, and any other number of hybrids out there.

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